I have an agenda. I want to change your mind about the sector we work in, about the resources available to us to build our organizations and our communities.
This is the Food Desert Locator. It’s put out by the USDA and this portion – the portion I did a screenshot of – shows the food deserts – low income communities without ready access to healthy and affordable food – in Tennessee and the surrounding area. This is the world we operate in. A world that is defined by lack. And so we operate by trying to figure out how to do more with less. But, increasingly, I believe there is another option.
I want you to believe we can build organizations – that we can build a sector -- based on abundance.
I believe we can move to a model where we treat our resources – our knowledge of our communities, our deep connections to issue areas, our urgency to feed people, to provide them with shelter – as things that are valuable and use social technologies to connect these resources to the people and the institutions who want to work with us and make change. I know this sounds like happy talk. And, frankly, I’m still working out exactly I think this works. How we can build into our systems, our infrastructure as organizations and as a sector. But, the things is, I think it works. And I want to invite you, all of you, into that process. Into thinking through how we can go from this scarcity model we’ve been in for years, for decades. And move into an abundance model. Let me tell you some the reasons I believe in abundance:
: I work for an organization that started with this:Journalists threw away review copies of software.We took those copies and gave them away. We built and built on that combination of resources: available software and hardware, our knowledge of nonprofits and the tools they needed to get their jobs done.
Now, we have impact in over 70 countries. We operate, of course, in the United States but also in Romania and Croatia. We’re in Chile and Mexico. France and Ireland and Germany. Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Vietnam. We’re able to provide services to organizations in Botswana and Egypt. And more.
To date, we’ve given away more than $2.5 billion worth of hardware and software. And we’ve gotten that technology from companies – some of them Fortune 5 – that make their profits by selling it. We found out they were happy to give things away if it could be made valuable through the work of the organizations who received it.We haven’t just given away technology We’ve connected people to resources that help them optimize that technology. We’ve watched Silicon Valley VCs provide financial advice to start up social entreprenuers. We’ve seen an organization helping farmers in Chile make their software and their knowledge available to a similar organization in Cameroon.
On Monday, I got to talk to a woman from the UK who runs a large – as in 30 million pounds large – effort to bridge the digital divide by bringing more than 3 million UK residents online in the next three years. As a part of that, she works with 2,000 community-based organizations. She’s learned a lot since in the doing of this work and one of her biggest concerns – one of the things she kept repeating as she talked to us -- is making sure the lessons she’s learned get out in the world. That they get translated to comparable efforts in the United States. She wants to give away the way they do evaluation, the software they’ve used to manage this used body of work. She wants to make sure people avoid some her missteps. She wants them to be able to start in a different place because of what she’s done.And I’ve seen other examples of abundance in action.
DC Central Kitchen is an amazing organization. They do a lot of tremendous things. The provide former felons with culinary training so that they have marketable skills. And, along the way to providing that training, they provide meals to shelters, to DC public schools. But the story I want to tell you about today is about helping farmers. Farmers, on these amazing organic farms ended up plowing food under. They didn’t sell it. It was blemished and so wasn’t appropriate for some of their high end clients. DC Central Kitchen worked with those farmers to rescue that food and use it in the meals they made. Vegetables that would have become organic matter for the next crop ended up going into meals for people who were hungry. They did something else with those relationships with farmers. In their Healthy Corners initiative they started delivering fresh produce to corner stores
Youth Uprising is an organization in Oakland, CA near where I live. Every day kids in one of the worst nieghborhoods in the US walked past a closed grocery store. It was a big building and there were broken and boarded windows. It was the kind of building you walked past pretty quickly. When the city of Oakland wanted to build those kids a youth center, they said, we know just the place for it. And they pointed to that empty building. The youth center that’s there today is a fabulous institution. It’s no longer a building youth hurry past. Instead it’s a place that provides them with job training, homework help and, in a neighborhood where everyone knows a victim of violence, it’s provides them a safe place to spend time.
I believe we can build a sector based on abundance; I believe we can build organizations based on abundance
Open data is the policy of publishing the data that you have in a machine readable format. Lots of use publish our data in human readable formats. We publish it in Word documents and .pdfs. In charts embedded in reports to funders, But we need to put our data on the internet in ways that other people can use it. Now, you might think you don’t have enough data to make it worth the effort. That Open Data is for big organizations, foundations. It’s for government agencies. For whole governments. Data, especially when we couple it with the word “big” conjures up companies like Google or Facebook or Twitter. Companies with a huge volume, variety and velocity of data. But, and I’m going to say this categorically, that’s not true. Because you’re data can be put into a map to help connect people to the issue you care most about.
Appalachian Voices has a website called “I Love Mountains.” You think you’ve got nothing to do with mountain top removal? Plug in your zip code and see what your power company is doing. And it’s not just you that I’d like to see publishing data. It’s also the people you serve, the people who support you. Help provide them the tools to share their experience of your communities. Point them to tools like
Point them to sites like SeeClichFix. It’s an easy way to report non-emergency issues in a neighborhood. But it’s driven by the community and the issues that are reported.
Join cities like Philadelphia, which has done an amazing job of making data useful and available. And through that, and the community resources that you can bring together – civically minded coders, organizations with a problem they believe technology can help with and end up with something like
Phind It for Me which uses a text message system to help locate nearby resources. Places like libraries, or youth service organizations or health clinics. Now don’t worry about the words you see on the screen like hastags. You only need to worry about that if you believe that coders have resources – specifically technology skills and knowledge – and you don’t But remember: you do have resources. You know what your community needs. What do they need to find? Why is it? You know the kind of technology they carry in their pockets – do they have smart phones, feature phones or no phones at all. Maybe the access the internet at the library.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Todd and Elizabeth, two of the people behind Random Hacks of Kindness.And I don’t think you need to worry very much, not here, about things like hashtags. Because, remember: you do have resources. You know what your community needs. What do they need to find? Why is it? You know the kind of technology they carry in their pockets – do they have smart phones, feature phones or no phones at all. Maybe the access the internet at the library. The technologies – that geek with seemingly arcane skills – doesn’t have that. The coder? She needs you so that her app will work. We here that over and over again. They want to be solving the problems communities actually have with tools that can be adopted. And you have knowledge that’s key to making that happen. Abundance, I think, is about bringing resources from different communities together so that people can play with, develop, implement and share the results. Sharing what you know, through open data, is key to making that happen.
Social media provides us with an unprecedented ability to congregate. We hear about when people talk and write about the Arab Spring. We see the dark side with some of the media reports that come out of Mexico.
But because of this ability to congregate we can go to sites like Twitter, put in search terms, and see the results. We can use those results to find the people we should be paying attention to, we should be talking to.Often, those people don’t agree with us.
But that’s okay. It’s good even. Because we’re never going to make change if we only talk with the people who agree with us. The heart of collaboration is working with engaged passionate and knowledgable people who care about the issues. We have the tools to find people. We have the tools to collaborate. We just need to step out of the echo chambers we can so often develop – the circle of people who share a view point on an issue, who believe that in the same solutions or necessary actions – and we don’t talk more broadly to the people in our communities that have to adopt a shared perspective before change can happen in meaningful ways.
And, along the way, share the perspectives. Share yours. Talk about how you are being informed by what’s happening. Are you changing something about your programs because of what you are learning?Connect this dots. I can’t emphasize this enough (perhaps because I, personally, do it too little) but share over and over again the things that you’ve learned, what influenced you, and how you are putting together a narrative need, resources and change in your communities. There are a lot of tools – and they change constantly – to share your story. Whether you use Word Press or Posterous, a facebook group or a google+ page doesn’t matter as much that you are thinking aloud.You may think this takes time – you’re right – but if you have a consistent practice and engagement it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You know why? You’re thinking about this issue anyway. You are probably even writing and talking about it – in funding proposals or emails to your supporters, at conferences like this one. Just write in one more place – one place that makes you findable by others – that lets you draw the connections about individuals.Because, ultimately, there isn’t actually a shortage of people who care about your issues. They just aren’t connected in ways that help provoke constructive change. What else is needed? To build a sector based on abundance?
And this is the part that’s not in such big supply. Because it’s about your time. And if you’re job is anything like mine, it’s crazy busy. My to-do list in 10 feet longer than I’m going to get to today or this week. Then I’m going to get to this year. And there’s always something more important for me to do. Because I am urgent to get our services out the door, I prioritize the things that feel urgent (and maybe really are). Reviewing a report to a major donor partner, Trying to find that extra $25,000 that’s going to help me balance a budget. This month. Making sure the people who need our services can get them as easily and quickly as possible. Making sure that I’m trying hard to expanding those services.It feels, sometimes, like I’ve gone radio silent for month because something else is always always always more important. But you know what? I’m wrong. Spending an hour of my day on this – on making sure that we’re going the extra mile and publishing data and results, on finding new people at the edges of my network to pay attention to, on writing that email or that blog post or that comment or even just that tweet that exposes the edges of what I’m working on, the things I’m not quite sure about yet – there’s nothing more important than that. Because that work is making sure other people can start at a different place because of what I’ve learned, what my organization has learned, it’s meeting the people that be core to the next set of projects I’ll be undertaking. This is informing the future of my work.Six years ago, we started a project called NetSquared. I’m going to tell you truth here, far away from my colleagues at TechSoup, my board, my funders: I had no idea what I was doing. None of us did. We just knew that something was happening on the internet, something even called web 2.0 then, that was exciting. We knew that, as individuals, we were connecting and sharing in ways that we’re increasingly simple and brought us startling benefits. And thought that there was something there for nonprofit organizations. And we decided to have that conversation in public. We had it on a blog and in monthly meetings, held in San Francisco, where talked with other people who were seeing some of the same possibilities. Where we were location-lucky to be able to invite the people who building the tools we were all infatuated with to come and speak to us.I learned about, and met the people behind, I Love Mountains and SeeClickFix through this work. I got access to people building at the edge of technology. People I never would have met – we never would have found each other – if we hadn’t started talking aloud. If we hadn’t scratched our head in a thoughtful pose in public. That project changed TechSoup. In ways that we still haven’t figured out yet. That work we started helped showed up in Romania last year, where we worked with our partner their to offer a challenge – an opportunity for people to tell us how technology can solve problems – on the issue of civic engagement and transparency. Something, I imagine you can guess, is a sensitive and important issue in Romania. And we think we’re going to be able to grow the work we did there to other Central and Eastern European Countries.Your aspirations are, undoubtedly, different from those held by the organization I work for. But just like ours, I believe that they will be more informed when you prioritize, in ways that are appropriate for your organization, the things that I’ve talked about today. I want to encourage you all to share, search, listen and share again. I want to learn what happens when you do some of this because this abundance thing? I believe it. I see it in action. And I’m starting to formulate the ideas around the conditions that are necessary for it to work and how we’ve got to change to make sure those conditions happen and we can take advantage of them. I’d love to see the results of what you do on the Internet. I’d love to hear about the places – like SeeClickFix – where you tell your constituents to share their experiences. I’d love to see your I Love Mountains: The things that turn the facts and data that you have into a story that engages other people. I’d love to hear about the people you meet and what that brings to you. I’d love to hear about it – and my contact information is at the end of this presentation – I’d love to hear about it because you tell me. But you know what I’d love the most? I’d love to hear about it because I find it. Because it’s unavoidable. Because our paths cross and we can do good work together. Because when I trace the roots of some change, I find something that shifts what I think, that I can bring into my own organization so that we can find ways to support you in your work. And I want it because right now? Right now, I’ve got more questions than asnwers. And I’ve been talking for a long time now, so I hope you’ve got some questions too.
• Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
• Anna Karenina by Leon Tolstoy
• Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky
• Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison
• NetSquared from TechSoup Global
• Beth’s Blog from Beth Kanter
• #nptech tweets on Twitter
• Networking on the Network by Phil Agre
• Nonprofit Social Media 101 wiki from TechSoup
• Food Desert Locator
• UK Online Centres
• TechSoup Global
• I Love Mountains
• DC Central Kitchen
• Youth center began as a Safeway
• Youth Uprising
• Phind It For Me
• Twitter Search Results for homeless+memphis
https://twitter.com/ - !/search/homeless memphis
• Facebook Search Results for
• Storify search immigration law
• Heroes by videoplaceboisnot
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